© Imperial College London.

© Imperial College London.

Like so much of the Dartmoor National Park, St Olaves is blessed by abundant wildlife. Fallow deer are frequently to be seen grazing on the water meadow and in the adjacent fields, and there is a large badger set on the main path to the river. There are also signs of otter activity along the river bank, although we have yet to catch sight of one of these elusive creatures.

But what you notice first is the mass of birds in every corner of the garden. Bullfinches and wrens flitting within a foot or two of the windows, and the calls of ravens and buzzards soaring above you. Birds that we previously saw occasionally on holidays to the uplands of Wales or the Pennines we now see most days.

Raven. Photo:  Minette Layne /Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Raven. Photo: Minette Layne/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The magisterial stars of the show are undoubtedly the resident pair of ravens, who seem to favour the towering Sitka Spruce at the junction of our leat system. We also have a grey wagtail and a heron visiting the small pond outside our kitchen window, tawny owls roosting in the nearby Coast Redwood, and treecreepers, nuthatches and woodpeckers climbing the trees above the terrace.  

Although we only moved here in mid-August, and therefore missed the frenzy of spring migration and the breeding season, we have already seen more than fifty different species of bird at St Olaves, including a notable influx of new species in the harsh weather at the start of March. Our big hope is that in the spring we may see migratory redstarts, flycatchers and warblers, and that the dipper and kingfisher we have seen fleetingly on the river may prove less elusive.

Below is a list of birds seen since August 2017 – those marked * are the most common {or (*) for abundant summer visitors}.

  1. Blackbird*

  2. Blackcap

  3. Blue Tit*

  4. Bullfinch*

  5. Buzzard*

  6. Carrion Crow*

  7. Chaffinch*

  8. Chiffchaff (*)

  9. Coal Tit*

  10. Collared Dove*

  11. Dipper

  12. Dunnock*

  13. Fieldfare

  14. Goldcrest*

  15. Goldfinch

  16. Goshawk

  17. Great Spotted Woodpecker*

  18. Great Tit*

  19. Greenfinch

  20. Green Woodpecker

  21. Grey Wagtail

  22. Heron*

  23. Herring Gull

  24. House Martin(*)

  25. House Sparrow*

  26. Jackdaw*

  27. Jay*

  28. Kingfisher

  29. Lapwing

  30. Lesser Redpoll

  31. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

  32. Linnet

  33. Long-tailed Tit

  34. Magpie*

  35. Mallard

  36. Merlin

  37. Mistle Thrush

  38. Nutchatch*

  39. Peregrine Falcon

  40. Pheasant*

  41. Pied Wagtail

  42. Raven

  43. Redstart

  44. Robin*

  45. Rook*

  46. Siskin*

  47. Song Thrush*

  48. Starling

  49. Swallow(*)

  50. Tawny Owl*

  51. Treecreeper*

  52. Whitethroat

  53. Willow Tit

  54. Woodcock

  55. Wood Pigeon*

  56. Wren*